CAIRO - 2 April 2021: In the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) virtual webinar titled “Egypt of Tomorrow: Improving Healthcare through Private Sector Investments”, the Minister of International Cooperation Dr. Rania A. Al-Mashat gave an opening speech on the role of the private sector in healthcare services development on March 30.
This event is the first of a series called “Egypt of Tomorrow” which delves into studying the role that the private sector plays in economic development, job creation, investment and sustainability.
In a moderated discussion by Walid Labadi, the IFC Country Manager for Egypt, Yemen and Libya, the event also included Dr. Magdy Bakr, who is representing Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population in place of Assistant Minister of Health and Population for Monitoring and Evaluation, and Chairman of the General Authority Health Care (GAHC), Dr. Ahmed ElSobky; IFC Vice President to the Middle East and Africa, Sérgio Pimenta; Chairman of the General Authority for Healthcare Accreditation and Regulations (GAHAR), Dr. Ashraf Ismail; CEO of the Universal Health Insurance Authority (UHIA), Dr. Hossam Sadek; and representatives from the IFC, and the private sector.
“This time last year, overnight nationwide curfews were imposed, with a shutdown of leisure and retail outlets as well as a suspension of aviation. I remember feeling uncertain as the unknown potential risks of the pandemic continued to rise across the globe. It was the time when we all realized it is not just a virus, but a humanitarian crisis. Today, we see our efforts through preparedness, effective governance, innovation come to realization. The pandemic has shifted our mindsets, it pointed us to becoming more resilient, more creative, fetching new paths of reform.” stated Al-Mashat
“It is true that for a while now, the word ‘health’ revolves around the pandemic, and that’s a natural trajectory of the situation globally but health goes far beyond the pandemic,” said Al-Mashat. She added that Egypt’s Universal Health Insurance System (UHIS), which the World Bank provided a $400 million financing agreement to support, includes mandatory coverage for citizens and unifies efforts with the private sector to achieve value care services. The services include and cover vulnerable communities so as to eliminate the existing disparities and offer temporary financial protection.
The Ministry of International Cooperation’s 2021 philosophy is centered on involving more private sector entities in the development framework. Through multilateral and bilateral cooperation, Egypt is investing in human capital and tapping on the private sector’s expertise and knowledge to further strengthen the healthcare system. In line with the private-led development framework, Al-Mashat met with a high-level delegation from General Electric (GE) to lay down an action plan to digitize the health sector and include more private entities in its technological advancement; over 40 years of collaboration, GE has provided over 15,000 healthcare technologies across the country to improve and modernize the health sector.
“As policy makers, it is important to realize that the role of the private sector in healthcare opens the door to technical expertise and advanced resources,” said Al-Mashat. The Minister elaborated that modernizing and developing the healthcare system is in line with Egypt’s 2030 National Agenda and the UN SDGs, as it all serves to establish better living standards that ensure “no one is left behind”.
Egypt is the region’s startup hub with a strong business environment, as there are a variety of health-centric startups that are rising, such as Nawah Scientific Research. Nawah Scientific Research, which helps researchers and pharmaceutical companies in facilitating their work and can often move scientific discoveries into production and marketing phases, was curated through Egypt Ventures, the first public-private venture capitalist in the country that acts as an incubator for startups. As co-chairs of Egypt Ventures, the Ministry of International Cooperation is focused on utilizing the creativity and innovation of young entrepreneurs.
Dr. Magdy Bakr, Advisor to the Head of the Commission for Technical Affairs, and Health System Consultant at the World Health Organization, said that “we need to plug in all national resources available in the country including the private sector,” when developing the health sector. “The private sector has huge infrastructure in Egypt and major investments that we need to make use of,” he added.
“Health is at the heart of human capital. COVID-19 reminded us of this fact,” said IFC Vice President to the Middle East and Africa, Sérgio Pimenta. He added on to explain that IFC sees Egypt’s development and progress in healthcare, and aims to increase support for the private sector engagement. “I would like to thank Mashat for her attendance, and for the strong partnership with IFC, and the commitment to developing the private sector,” he added.
The Ministry of International Cooperation is currently involved in 36 projects targeted at achieving the overall health objective of SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being, which received a development financing worth $1.4 million. The Ministry and the IFC share a portfolio of $1.27 billion, focusing on the development of private entities across various sectors, including health.
“In addition to strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem, we thank our partner the IFC for their investment in the digital healthcare service Vezeeta, pushing towards a digitized sector that shall cater efficiently and effectively to the people” said Al-Mashat. Vezeeta is an online platform that helps people book clinic visits or home visits, and rates doctors from patients who have used the service.
The Minister expressed that Egypt is currently targeting an increase of 69% in healthcare sector investments during fiscal year 2020/2021, reaching LE 15.3 billion in investments. She explained that health allocations in recent draft budget plans have also increased from EGP 23.4 billion to EGP 95.7 billion for the same fiscal year.